Welcome back, My Wonderful Readers!
Today’s special story of substance can be enjoyed by adults and Young Adults alike…:)
All Rights Reserved.
It was the last book on the last shelf in the darkest corner of the school library. No author, just a title, The Gurong, the odd skeleton of a building on its cover an image Crispin had known all his life. A skinny building on the outskirts of town that kind of served as a welcoming and farewell to all who came and went. A mysterious structure that seemed to be as old as the town itself, or at least as old as the eldest residents who inhabited it, for no one really knew of its origins. Sure there were stories, plenty of them, the most widely accepted being a haunting tale of a young man who had set out to build the town’s first library, the one in charge of the town back then, Mayor Waylon, not giving a hoot about books, and therefore only allowing a small strip of land to be used for the project. Located alongside the road heading out of town, it was just a few yards of space before dropping off into a wide canyon below.
Who would want to visit such a small cliff-side library? Perhaps this is why the mayor had chosen such a spot. But what he hadn’t anticipated was the strong will of the young man, who, despite the limitations and locale, set out to give his town its first book haven.
And this is where the folklore takes a disturbing turn. Depending on who you talk to, something awful had happened to that young man as he was single-handedly building his passion project. Some said he had fallen off the edge, others that a suspicious fire had started, turning he and whatever books he had in there into ash.
Whatever the case it was now certain that the young man was gone, his hopes and dreams now as empty as the shell of this thin building, its hollowed look and peculiar end bringing about ghostly stories that would go on for generations.
The Gurong; pass by his place at midnight and you’ll see his shadow by candlelight.
If you’ve lost a book, chances are he took it.
If you say his name three times, you’ll have nightmares forever, unless you leave a book on his doorstep.
Ironic that he had set out to bring the gift of story to his community, only to become a haunting one himself. Ironic that his dream centered around a library, and now, here his story was, surrounded by all these books, yet just sitting here, covered in dust.
Crispin couldn’t wait to read it!
So short in length it only took him an hour to read, and that was even taking his time, absorbing every word, sentence, paragraph. But oh how wonderful it was to learn how, like himself, The Gurong loved books, and would spend all day every day reading them if he could. And the journey this ambitious character had taken to bring about his dream of creating the town’s first library. How he had set out alone, everyone else following the lead of Mayor Waylon, displaying no patience to simply sit down and lose oneself in a story. How he believed he could change that, help bring about appreciation for the written word.
And so The Gurong began his long endeavour to do just that, first acquiring permission from Mayor Waylon after numerous attempts and handing over to him what little savings he had, then drawing up plans for what must have been the world’s most oddest-shaped library. Once this had been done he had paid a visit to all the town’s residents, visiting them one-by-one, face-to-face, to ask for their support in the form of donations and help. Every one of them declined the latter, with only a few granting the former.
After a long hard year of scrounging enough cement, rods and everything else it would take to make the library he began to build. Day and night, weekends and holidays, not a single day passing without ‘that crazy young fella’, ‘that book guru’, ‘that Gurong’, as the townsfolk would often refer to him, pouring all his blood, sweat and tears into ‘that cliff-side atrocity.’
Then one day it had all stopped. No more sawing, pounding, laying cement, passersby so used to the activity of this one young stubborn fella that it was immediately noticed when all became still, like the tolls of a bell tower no longer ringing out for all to hear.
And just like that, the book abruptly ended.
What had happened to The Gurong?! Had he left anything behind? Family? Friends? Was anything found in his unfinished library?
Crispin looked at the front and back of the book for any clues, anything that could lead him to answers. There was nothing. All blank, except for the library checkout card and date stamp on the first page.
Only one other reader had ever checked out the book.
Maybe Crispin could find out who this was. Maybe the librarian could help him find this person. And maybe, just maybe, R. Bach would know more to the story. But the date…
It went all the way back to 1952.
But like The Gurong, Crsipin was determined.
R. Bach had been the one in charge of the school library decades ago, now a resident of Springwood, an old folks’ home on the outskirts of town. Ironically it was just a few blocks away from The Gurong’s place, Crispin pedalling away on his bike to first have another look at the old mysterious structure, viewing it with more appreciation than the last time he had laid eyes on it. He had never had the courage to actually go in and explore the premises before, but now had a newfound determination to do just that.
But first he would learn as much as he could about the place.
“Go away, we’re not buyin’ anything!” yelled a voice from the other side of the front door of Springwood. Crispin knocked again. “I’m not selling anything. Can I speak with Mr. Bach please?”
The door was tall, thick, and nearly as intimidating as the man behind it, cracking it open and peeking his angry face around to stare down at Crispin with such irritation. “Whatdya’ want? What business do you have with Bach?”
“I- I just had a few questions about a book in my school library.”
“Nobody here knows anything about that.”
Before he could finish, the door was slammed shut.
Crispin looked back at his bike, not wanting to leave without answers, or at least without talking to R. Bach. This desire to know more gave him the courage to walk around back and peer into the home’s windows.
The first two rooms were empty, but in the third sat a little old woman in a wheelchair, her back to the window to take advantage of the sunlight as she read a book. Holding it near her face and reading through a pair of thick glasses, Crispin was sure she couldn’t see him as he peeped through the glass on tip toes to see what book it was.
“Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White,” the old woman suddenly said without turning around. “First read it when I was your age.”
Shocked, Crispin didn’t know how to respond, saying the first thing to come to mind. “Salutations.”
This brought the old woman’s nose out of her book, turning around not with an irritable expression across her face like that which had been given by the mean old Grinch at the front door, but rather a sincere smile.
“So you’ve read Wilbur’s tale, my dear boy.”
Although a bit muffled by the glass between them, Crispin could tell by her tone that she was as warm on the inside as she was on the out.
“My strength isn’t what it used to be. Give an old woman a hand and push up on this window, will you?”
Crispin obliged, and as he did so an ice cream truck turned onto Springwood’s street. “Ah, just the ice cream freezer box,” she said as they both looked out towards it. “You know you’re a bookworm when you get more excited for the bookmobile.”
Crispin liked her already.
“So what brings you to our neck of the woods?” she asked of him. “Surely it wasn’t to start an old lady book club.”
“I’m looking for Mr. Bach. the old- I mean one of the first librarians that used to work at my school. I knocked on the front door, but…”
“Nothin’ wrong with old, my dear boy. Most of those who are lucky enough to reach it find it’s as comforting as a good old book.” She took off her reading glasses. “Well, in some respects, that is. And as for that ogre at the door, don’t mind him, he’s as rotten as the Waylon tree he fell from.”
“Waylon?” Crispin began to get excited.
“Yep, his grandfather used to be the mayor of this town. A history of ogres if you ask me.”
A thought now occurred to the boy. “Are you R. Bach?”
“In the wrinkled flesh,” she replied, “but Reagan will do.” Crispin eagerly took off his backpack, unzipped it, and pulled out The Gurong.
“Ah-ha, I was beginning to think your visit had something to do with this.”
She looked down at the book with such nostalgia. “A part of me felt this day would never come. But then there was always that little hope.”
“You’re the only one who ever checked it out. Do you know who wrote it? Were you ever able to find out anything else about The Gurong?”
Reagan moved the curtain aside. “The windowsill’s not too high, can you climb on up here?”
Crispin used his bike as a step and crawled up into her room, she then guiding him to have a seat on her bed.
She reached down into a secret compartment on her wheelchair and brought forth a roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers. “Want one? They were his favorite.”
Crispin’s eyes widened like silver dollars, putting his hand out for one of the sweet little rings as he asked, “You knew him?!”
To Be Continued…
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